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Why Does My Front-Load Washer Smell? What Can I Do About It?

I just subscribed to Consumer Reports to better keep up on industry trends, and was pretty shocked to read some of the reviews about front-load washers. As an appliance repair company owner for over 23 years, I am here to answer some of your questions.

Some of the more scathing reviews were directed at consumer’s PERSONAL brands as being problematic. Some of the charges were pretty unfounded and some down right way off the mark! So read on . . .

Airtight = Stinky! Front-load washers have an air-tight seal (because they load from the front, they have to). Across the board, front-load washer’s doors must be kept ajar between cycles or mold WILL grow and the stinking starts. It is not a problem with just certain brands. They ALL have this concern! If you catch it early, a bleach load with hot water will do the trick. However, once the mold permeates the boot seal (the rubber gasket around the door) it must be replaced as there is no way to removed permeated mold (that we know of, to date).  And a monthly acid-wash is a must!

You MUST use the correct soap. You must use an HE rated soap (high efficiency). There is just no getting around that. Look for the HE symbol on the box. So give the other stuff away and buy the correct soap. We have not been thrilled with the results from some of the “environmentally conscientious” brands out there. Overfoaming has been a huge problem with these brands and bargain brands, too. We like Kirkland powder or Tide powder. HE, of course! And forget the big scooper that comes in the box or the huge cap. Two tablespoons will do it. Really! Read on for further recommendations.

Throw the liquid HE soap away. It has come to our attention that a smell issue can be associated with a soap scum (I know. Yuck!) buildup under the boot seal. You literally will need to scrape it out if you see a black ring under the boot seal. The liquid soaps are made from an animal fat base (yuck, again) as the emulsifier, which has been causing the buildup in some washers.

Follow your nose! Check UNDER the boot seal. If your model permits, peel it back right there in the front. There may be a sock or other little item stuck under there, molding away. Happened to me, and look what I do for a living!!!

Check the trap! Some brands/models have their own trap for “stuff” that collects, lint, spare change, whatever. It can start to stink. Don’t know if you have a trap? Check you owner’s manual or look online on the manufacturer’s website. Have your model number ready or it won’t be much help.

Is something missing? You might have something stuck in your pump. You know how there is always a sock missing!  It might be draining okay — maybe a little slower than it had, perhaps? But who watches the time? There might be an obstruction that is molding in your drain pump. If that is the case, call a professional for help. Better to catch it now and we clear the pump than to have it destroy the pump! Big difference in repair costs.

Soaps have changed! The EPA is to blame for this one. Phosphates have been removed from detergents recently, causing a change in how well your trusted brand works. Read on for some help with that!


* Add a scoop of OxyClean to the inside of the drum for each bleachable load. That will help your whites stay whiter and keep your drum fresh.

* Add 1 Tablespoon of OxyClean mixed with your 2 Tablespoons soap is another Cody’s tried and true methods that works well.

* If you start to see white residue, you have pretty hard water and are getting a calcium buildup. We have a citric acid formula that we sell that you can use every month to blast that out. It works with your dishwasher, too. It is also environmentally friendly and pipe and septic safe. And forget the Tang theory; it just is not strong enough. And all that sugar is a waste. There are other products out there now, too. Not as strong as our product, but might do the trick.

I hope that I have given you some help with your questions/concerns about your front-load washers. If you have any comments, questions, or ideas that you’d like to share, please feel free to use our “Contact Us” feature on this website. Happy Washing!

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